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tv   Dateline NBC  NBC  September 16, 2011 9:00pm-11:00pm PDT

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>> i've never been involved in an investigation like this. >> an investigation to find out why a man, nice guy, would vanish without warning. just some weird e-mail. >> i bought a one-way ticket to heaven and i'm never coming back. >> police were mystified. >> maybe he did go to costa rica. >> an up and coming director made a movie about murder. he didn't know the missing man but he was obsessed with a fictional serial killer. >> we had talked about how would
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you kill somebody. >> was it a real killer copying a tv thriller? >> he told me you would do it like dexter. >> but would he kill a perfect stranger? there was a rehearsal. >> my god. my family is never going to see me again. >> now it was up to a jury to untangle reality from make-believe. >> i thought this was a publicity stunt gone bad. >> and up to police to find the final frightened twist. >> doesn't get more explosive than that. >> deadly house of cards. >> good evening, everyone. welcome to "dateline." what your about to see seemed at first like a missing persons case turned murder investigation but as time passed it seemed it was somebody else entirely. a hoax or a terrifying illusion staged by master storyteller. even a hard headed homicide
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detective in charge of the case worried he was being fooled but the thing he could not figure out was why. here's keith morrison. >> an underground parking garage. you're watching a violent attack caught on tape. who is this? what's happening? or did it happen at all? movies are by design deceptive. make-believe worlds but have you noticed maybe it's all the technical do-dads and digital editing and some stories that claim to be true aren't. anybody can manipulate reality. sometimes what they say is true isn't. sometimes fiction turns out to be fact. and then there are stories just a few in which fact and fiction
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fuse and that's where we're going tonight. a twilight zone world of illusion and deception and deceit. follow the howling wind north across a vast prairie through brief summers and winters as frigid as any others to the metropolis to the north where the police department stays busy. this is detective bill clark. the city is edmonton, canada. >> today i got a call from a family whose son was killed in november. >> nothing in a long career so strange as the case of the man who went missing and bill clark found himself in another world between fantasy and illusion. ever see a case like this before? >> never in my life. >> when it started out it seemed perfectly simple. a missing man.
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some guy just dropped out of sight. the kind of thing that tends to sort itself out once the so-called victim sobers up. >> i'm not thinking much is going to come of this. >> after clark's 31-year service in the city with the highest murder rate in canada, you can hardly blame him for getting a little picky. >> we don't usually go to missing persons. we're picky on what we go to. unfortunately for us to come out, you got to be dead and it better be criminal. we don't want to come out if you're just dead. if the patrolman doesn't know it's criminal, don't bother calling us. >> you have enough to do. >> yeah. >> it explains why some of the locals have come to calling their city deadmanton. >> do we have a murder? if we don't, this isn't our file. we have enough to work on. we have no indication of foul play. nothing. >> the missing person in this case was the guy by the name of johnny altinger.
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liked to ride motorcycles and had bad luck with women. he appeared to drop off the face of the earth except for the strange e-mails he was sending. >> i left with a woman. i'm going to coaststa rica. >> saying that he had met a wonderful girl named jen and he was going to costa rica and i received several of them. i received six all together. >> six messages? the same message? >> the exact same message. >> same words? >> hi there. i met a wonderful girl named jen. i'm going to costa rica. and i will keep in touch and call you when i get back after the holidays. johnny. >> almost formal in a way. >> yes. >> suddenly like someone you didn't really know was sending you an e-mail. >> absolutely. i was, like, that's really odd. that doesn't sound like john. >> it was odd. even more so when another friend
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of altinger's received the same message word for word and alt altinger's relationship changed from single to in a relationship. >> i was on msn mentioner and johnny popped on mine. i thought he must not have left on his vacation yet. it said johnny. his name and then in quotations beside his name it said i bought a one-way ticket to heaven and i'm never coming back. >> and later that same day debra got a call from a friend who told her that johnny altinger appeared to be missing. >> it's surreal, you know. you don't expect your friends to go missing. >> pretty soon altinger's friends got together unsure about what to do. before going to police, they decided to try to get into his condo to see if they could find a clue to what happened to the guy.
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to break in actually and everything looked fine. nothing out of place. no sign of any struggle. only things missing were his wallet, his keys, and his red mazda coupe so it looked as if he had gone out for a drive and could be back any minute. >> there was no answers to anything. he just vanished into thin air. >> except for those strange e-mails altinger supposedly said about falling in love and costa rica which said to the cops, clark said seemed perfectly reasonable. not hard to believe that a love struck man may want to leave the snow and ice and go to the tropics. >> strange but who knows. maybe he did go to costa rica. stranger things have happened. >> that's how clark felt until he stepped through the looking glass and followed the missing man's trail into a strange place
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of make-believe. a makeshift movie studio. >> as soon as they called me on the phone, i got this weird chill. >>"d n y he wdleahouse of cards" continues. to learn a new language or just a new word? maybe you want to know more about anatomy, or astronomy. you could master something new or uncover a hidden talent. there's never been a better time to learn. dl ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ [ male announcer ] the most headroom per dollar of any car in america. the all-new
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on purchases of $299 or more. experience. lowe's. let's build something together. johnny awl altinkerer's condominium look like anything
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but a crime scene. there was no sign of a struggle, no blood. it was like he just stepped out for a few minutes, could be back anytime. where was he? johnny's friends were convince ared something awful had happened to him so day after day they prodded the police. and finally seven days after johnny went missing the cops agreed to open an investigation. >> we just tart started with the basics, i said, we've basically got to find out if we can find him first of all. let's find the car. find the car, hopefully find him or have an idea where he is. >> since johnny altingekeraltinker's e-mail said he went to costa rica, they went to look for hiss car. wasn't here. they combed through are passenger listses. he wasn't on any of them. johnny's friends went back to the apartment for another look and found, stashed away among his important papers, his passport.
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>> we're going do inggoing, whoa, you're not going anywhere without your passes port. >> seemed like he had to be within driving distance. but what direction? where? just as the police were contemplating that puzzle, one of johnny's friends came up with another e-mail. this one johnny had received from a woman he met online, jen was her name, the same woman with whom he had scampered off to costa rica supposed lid. jen and johnny were on a date the night he disappeared. because he had never been to her place, she sent him an e-mail with directions on how to pick her up. out of an abundance of caution, he sent a copy of that e-mail to a friend just in case. >> i can't remember, it said, if anything happens to me, you know where il am, laugh out loud. >> there were detailed directions to her place without an address. sot so the cops drove the route and
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the directions led them to this neighborhood down this alley and to this garage rent by you -- a. >> a guy named mark twitchell. >> who happened to be in the arts community a little bit of a celebrity celebrity. he was making a name for himself here in edmonton as aid filmmaker. he had recently made a low-budget sci-fi musicoveiemovie. >> they called him up of course and readily agreed to come down and open up the place. but when he got here, big surprise. someone had changed the lock. he couldn't get in. so with twitchell permission, officers broke in, had a quick look around and found nothing. just the same, what, with that changed lock and the weird coincidence of johnny's e-mail, there were things to figure out. and mark twitch withell was only too happy to tag along to the police station to help out the only way he could.
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>> the first thing i noticed the thepads lock didn't look familiar to me. >> he explained he used the garage as a sound stage, for something called a teaser, a short film used to drum up publicity and buzz and with any luck attract enough money to aallow him to direct a full-feature tliter. >> it's a suspense thriller, actually. we did it -- it's a short film. >> suspense thriller? >> right. >> of course he had a crew in and out of the place during the film, said mark, several actors. maybe one of them was up to something. but it seemed unlikely. and none of them had ever asked to borrow the set for anything. >> so if there was anything like that, if somebody needed to borrow the place or whatever, then they would let me know. >> they'd let you know -- >>
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>> or they'd ask. no, i don't know anything about that. >> anyway, he said, he'd moved on for now to another project. >> i'm working on a comedy right now, which is actually a full-blown feature that actually will have a decent budget in the neighborhood of about 3.5 million. >> and in the meantime the garage-come-studio was empty. so why would someone break into the place and change the lock, he wondered? didn't make sense. >> and i had a padlock previously but it it wasn't the same one. the one i had was silver on the outside, like a black plastic dial in the center. and this one was just all metal. so -- >> so you noticed a different padlock. >> yeah. >> and that was on the door. >> right. >> mystifying, said mark. he had a bad feeling about p this. man disappears after telling police he was going to the very place his movie had been p shoot shooting. >> as soon as they called me on the phone, i got this weird chill.
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>> so what about that woman johnny a johnny altinger had told him she'd meet him there, the one who sign her e-mails a ss "jen"? >> does the name "jen" mean anything to you? >> no. >> so the name jen doesn't mean anything to you? you don't know a joen, don't have an actress named jen? >> so who was this mystery woman, jen? and why in the world would she arrange to meet johnny altinger here in the very backyard garage an independent edmonton film crew was renting for use as a studio? how odd, especially since the movie's producer/director mark twitchell expressed exactly the same confusion as the police. he didn't get it either. the dots didn't connect. mark twitchell didn't know johnny from are adam. besides, there was no indication
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johnny ever made it to the garage at all. >> the close friends were the ones who had come to the police. they basically had nothing other than his e-mails. >> there was one thing, though, and it came from mark twitchell. he wondered, he said, if maybe somebody was being set up. >> because it it just doesn't sit right. so the first thing i start asking myself is, who all knows about what we do there and what our schedule looks like? stuff like that. >> was the disappearance staged somehow? but you if someone was being fooled, who was it and why? was all of this just some big stunt even a publicity stunt? detective bill clark was thoroughly engaged by now. he had spent a career listening to criminals spin their stories. maybe he could figure out if this twitchell guy was trying to play the cops somehow. he pulled the recording of the interview. >> when i watch an interview, i listen to what the guy says, but i'm looking at body language,
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i'm looking for signs of deceit. i remember coming out the inter intergoing, this mark twitchell guy interviewed really well. there were no signs of deceptionment he's free-0 flowing with the information, answering the questions logically. i don't see any looking away. i don't see any of the nervousness nervousness. nothing. i see nothing. >> and then when police looked into twitchell's production company express entertainment, they encountered a perfectly legitimate company. more than that, actually. this was a promising effort to help edmonton get some national attention as a potential center of movieeie you making. mark twitchell was very good at drumming up attention and money from local investors like john. >> he was a very sharp, bright, young articulate entrepreneur, exactly you the kind of individual that most of us are looking for. >> so he checked out. hardworking local boy in a city of hards working people.
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good parents, nice young wife, sweet little daughter, on his way to becoming a celebrity here in edmonton. detectives even got a look at the teaser film for twitchells's next project, the $3.5 million buddy comedy "day players." that's mark in the background playing the role of director, even as he was the director. sort a hall of mirrors type story, a movie about a movie about making a movie. or something. fantasy and reality all mixed up somehow. just to cover the bases, police interviewed mark twitchell's crew members and they vouched for him and revealed they all shared a passion for "star wars." that's mark there on the right wearing the white shirt. they loved the whole tale about the force and the dark side. so much that their first project together was a "star wars" fan film called "secrets of the
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rebellion." mark was wildly successful that time at drumming up local media coverage, became kind of a big deal here in edmonton. >> we keep pretty good pace with lucas film when it comes to producing the films. it takes them three years from the time they start shooting to the time they finish post production to get one of their films wrapped up. technically i have until the summer of 2009 to get done. >> this was no doubt about it a low-budget protection. but even so, twitchell landed one of the original "star wars" actors, jeremy bullock. that was enticing enough to get sean store to sign on for a part. >> as soon as i you found out i would play alongside him, i thought, great, it's a named actor. >> sci-fi's not store's thing it. once he got to edmonton, he found the atmosphere of mark twitchell's set a little too playful, maybe, unserious? at least for him.
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>> i remember one time he shoved a pillow up under his shirt and he said he looked like alfred hitchcock, then he wore that for the rest of the day. ridiculous. but everybody else thought it was great, laughed because this is him and if you don't laugh at his joke, you know what i mean? the alpha in the room and everybody laughs at him. >> he was the alpha in the room? >> that's what everybody had him as. >> fits his role as a prankster. maybe you have to be to start a movie business. mark twitchell came off squeak ki clean, his company was respected as was he. bill clark and the edmonton police back at square one, by the look of these. >> what do we have in we've got nothing. >> but soon this tough cop would catch a break. >> detective says to me, this guy just told me he bought a red car off a guy. >> the missing man's car turns up.
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it feels like help is never far away. it feels like you're protected against life's little mishaps. it feels like you'll make it home. that's what it feels like to be a member.
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bill clark is, he doesn't mind admitting it, an old-school detective, of the sorts that seem to exist more on the big
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screen than the mean streets. >> guys here last night? >> in fact, clark is such a throws back, the younger guys on the force call him sip owe wits after the guy on nypd blue. >> i enjoy coming to work every day, just a part of my life. i still have the drive, still excited about it. almost every file something's different. >> in 31 years on the edmonton police force, clark has seen murder take many forms. has seen the shattering effect it has on family. >> you're the one the family depends on. and i take that seriously. ultimately that's in the back of your mind, that if you don't speak for the family, then -- or the dead guy whoshgs is going to? >> and for clark there's no greater satisfaction than bringing in a killer. >> i'm a pit bull. if you get a case and you get your teeth into it, we're those a-type personalities. we want to get the guy you, get this guy and put him away.
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>> but as for the johnny aultor inger case, this wasn't even a murder, as far as anybody knew yet. so clark kept himself on a tight leash, had yet to smell blood, you must have come to some point where you thought, uh-oh, definitely you foul play. >> no, not yet. >> all they had, after all, was a missing man, johnny, who might just have driven off somewhere with or without some mystery woman named jen. certainly that would account for the fact that his red mazda coupe woz gone, too. but really aside from a few curious e-mails that may or may not make sense, there wasn't much to go on. so, being cops, clark and his colleagues employed standard procedure. they it double-backed for a second look at things, like that garage johnny was apparently headed for when he vanished. >> we're taking our next step, logically you, it's the garage. take a close look. >> so they applied for a search
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warrant and it it waswas rejected. >> it was turned down. it gets turned down because we're told we don't have a crime. we haven't proven there's a crime. >> the next step seemed simple enough. clark went to mark twitchell directly to see if he'd give permission to search the garage. >> he goes, yeah. i said, i'll need you to sign a consent form. yep, no problem. >> they requisitioned the required form, aa detective hopped nd the car, drove to mark's places to get a signature. and then? the weirdest thing. >> get a phone call from the detective. detective says to me, you won't believe it, but you this guy just told me he bought a red mazdauzzda off a guy. >> a red mazda? didn't johnny altinger drive a red mazda? >> mark hadn't said anything about a red mazda when he came to talk to the detective before. he said he forgot. really? why would he forget a thing like that? >> of course you don't want to get tunnel vision. big thing for homicide
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investigation. keep an open mind. i pulled myself back. but there's something fishy going on. >> so clark invited twitchell to come back down to the station for a meeting, 10:30 on a sunday night. and twitchell agreed. >> hey, mark. thanks for waiting. everything you do now we're an analyze analyzing. we call it the up arrow/down arrow scenario. this is an up arrow, cooperative, comes to talk to us on sunday night. up arrow for mark. red car mazda, didn't mention it, big down arrow. big down arrow. >> but those two arrows are about all clark had to work with. >> so, as you know, mark, we're just here trying to find this john fellow, john altinger. >> uh-huh. >> we got nothing. i you don't knowwhat's happened to johnny you. >> whatever happened, whatever it was. >> exactly. >> because once again as the
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interstrew proceeds, the young filmmaker is the very picture of cooperation. he volunteers information, answers questions without hesitation or any apparent guile. his demeanor is expansive, even an untrained eye can see that twitchell's body language is open, comfortable, in control. so they get to the story about the red mazdament he was approached, he said, just a few blocks from his rented garage by an agitated man. it was the night johnny disappeared. the man seemed desperate to get rid of his car, said mark, offered to sell it for practically nothing. >> he goes, well, i checked up with this really rich lady, a sugar mama kind of situation, and she's going to take care of me and going to buy me a new car when we get back from vacation we're going to take. i'm thinking, is there, what, two tons of cocaine in the trunk? i'm trying to figure out what the catch is here. >> apparently, said mark, there was no catch.
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and nothing wrong with the car, except that it had a standard transmission, which he didn't know how to drive. so he left it parked in a friend's driveway. >> does he live close by or what? >> yeah. he lives just like a couple of blocks away. >> was it finally a break? detective monitoring the interview sent a patrol car to check it out. and sure enough, there it was, empty by the look of it it. nothing untowards about the car. johnny's not in the car. >> meanwhile, bill clark left the interview room, partly to regroup, but also to see how mark would act when they left him alone. and if he was rattled, he certainly didn't show it. here he calmly placed a call to his wife. well, i tried to answer some more of their questions then fill them in. and now like it turns out that
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the car is, in fact, belonging to this missing guy and it's a huge deal. that's what this whole thing is about. >> what in heaven's name was going on? bill clark still didn't have a clue. oh, but he might in a minute because bill clark good cop was about to become bill clark bad cop. >> there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that you're involved in the disappearance of john altinger. >> he might be involved. but youwhat part was fact and what was fantasy? [ male announcer ] succeeding in today's market requires more than wishful thinking. it requires determination and decisive action. i go to e-trade and get unbiased analyst ratings and 24/7 help from award-winning customer support to take control of my finances and my life. i tap into the power of revolutionary mobile apps. to trade wherever. whenever. life isn't fully experienced sitting idly by. neither is investing.
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almost 4:00 a.m. now, downtown edded monten. filmmaker mark twitchell was sitting in that interview room at the police station talking to his wife on the phone, fading a little. >> my problem is that i'm so tired and it's so hard to remember things. >> outside the room detective bill clark watched twitchell, went over a few notes, prepared to switch tactics. >> you know, it's already started, the game's on. it it's me against him. i know it.
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>> he also knew he was quite sure of it that all evening mark twitchell had been handing him a whole load of nonsense and expected him to believe it. but also all evening detective clark -- >> i agreed with everything he said. this wasn't the time of the interview to start pushing him. it wasn't the time to start confronting him. that would come later on. >> because one of those down arrows of bill clark's led to a particular conclusion. mark twitchell thought bill clark was a dumb cop. twitchell was trying to play him. while you're reading him during that interview he had been reading you. >> no doubt. >> and he had made probably some judgments about your ability as an interviewer. what did he think of you, do you think? >> i think he didn't think i was that smart. i think he thought he was smarter than me.
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and i believe that he felt that anything he told us he could concoct to make us believe him. >> and of course there's only one proper response to that. >> i just let him go. then i take him back through it it, question and answer, you know, standard procedure. just nail down the details now. start nailing them down. now i'm starting to see he's not remembering specific details. let's go back to your lunch. you're at lunch. where do you go for lunch? >> i don't remember. >> don't know where you went for lunch? >> no. >> so now it was early morning. they had been at it for hours. they he had taken break. they let mark twitchell sit by himself and perhaps stew a bit. and now the time had come for clark to play a different role. >> we've done the good cop routine. now my forte, the bad cop is coming out. >> your fort. >> absolutely. there's no it doubt in my mind you're involved in the disit
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ameerns of john altinger. >> no doubt in my pmind at all, mark. >> why? >> now i'm going to start with ing toing to ing toing to start to hammer him with what i know. problem is i know very little. >> now it was perfectly clear to twitchell hes was a suspect, his easy camaraderie started to shrivel. his eyes glazed with something that looked like fear. was he truly innocent, or was something else going on, something more in keeping with his role as a storyteller? >> why can't you give me your version of events that night? >> because i'm scared. >> as the night dragged on, he mumbled something like reality seeming more like some sort of fantasy. >> i just feel like i'm in the twilight zone right now. >> but in the face of all of
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detective clark's accusations, mark twitchell never wavered. for nearly four hours he answered clark's answers, always polite, apparently helpful, didn't so much as ask for a lawyer. so by the end of the night -- >> i got nothing. i got no evidence. my gut instinct at that time is this guy is involved. he's involved up to his neck in this. what exactly he's done to him i don't know yet, but i'm going to find out. >> finally, at days break, mark twitchell let clark know he had enough. >> am i being charged? >> not yet. >> am i free to go? >> yup. >> then i will. >> okay. >> and then, as bill clark escorted mark twitchell out of the building and p intointo the early dark being he upped the ante a little, told twitchell he was seizing his car. >> then he goes, he almost stopped, pulled back.
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he goes, well, i need to get something out of it. i said, you're getting nothing. i'm taking that car. >> and it it was then, as clark approached twitchell's car to take it to the impound yard, that he noticed mark's unusual license plate personalized, drkjedi. coming up -- police find witnesses who saw something that seemed like a horror movie. >> i have never in my life felt fear like that. ah looks like somebody's a winner. ha, not me! cause shipping is a hassle. different states different rates. not with priority mail flat rate boxes from the postal service, if it fits it ships anywhere in the country for a low flat rate. so shipping for the chess champ in charleston is the same as shipping for the football phenom in philly? yep. so i win! actually, i think you deserve this. no, i deserve this. wow, got one of those with a mailman on top? priority mail flat rate shipping starts at just $4.95
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edmonton homicide detective bill clark, along with other members of the edmonton police service, felt a little like alice in the rabbit hole. their missing man johnny altinger had vanished without a traces and there were whispers his disappearance could be part of some publicity stunt. their only suspect was an aspiring movie producer, storyteller, who stood up to a bill clark grilling with his manners intact, even though by this time clark couldn't shake the gut feeling that this movie director was one very bad guy. >> i was thinking he had filmed whatever he had done to johnny. i'm thinking he killed him and he had filmed the murder. >> so as police look through twitchell's garage and car and home, they had an idea they might find a videotape of a murder. instead, what they discovered was an affair. twitchell had a girlfriend.
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and when his wife found out about that, she kicked him out. but twitchell seemed, at least to the outside world, unperfect unperturbed. instead of falling aapart, he retreated to his childhood home, moved in with his parents. so clark paid twitchell's dad and mom a visit. >> she just struck me as a parent who her son does it nothing wrong. wheres as the father wanted to listen to me, hear what i had to say. and he listened. but he got overridden. >> they set up a surveillance team, 24-hour watch to keep an rye on the house and twitchell. but his behavior was anything but suspicious. he went on about his business, took meetings with investors about his day players movie prosecute project, even picked up a $35,000 check from financial backer john peninsulainson. >> the mark twitchell i was dealing with was articulate, in
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control, running his project the way you would expect an entrepreneur to. >> in detective clark's world of up arrow and down arrows, there was one more huge up arrow in twitchell's favor. motive, or that is to say lack of one. there was no earthly reason for twitchell to kill altinger. there are was no robbery, no love triangle, no rivalry. and to put it more simply, twitchell was not a criminal, didn't have a arecord. had never even been arrested. why would a young married father kill a perfect stranger? so, besides twitchell, police also focused their attention on this kauaiquiet neighborhood around the garage and where altinger may have gone to met a woman he met online. they went door to door. had anyone seen johnny altinger or his car or anything suspicious? and they found this couple who aost
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ry t t seemedlmost lifted from a horror movie. >> i have never in my life felt fear like that. >> these two, their names marissa and trevor, were out for an evening stroll when they stepped through you the looklooking glassesment it happened when a young man came out of this alley and collapsed in front of them. >> he was on the ground and it was just an instant bad feeling. >> he looked at me and said, i'm being robbed, can you help me? >> and then, as if on cue, another man appeared in p pursuit. then as i looked up, the attacker almost actually ran into me. >> the attacker was wearing a dark hood sweatshirt and a hockey mask. >> it >> it's like every nightmare you had as a child after watching a scar scary movie, all of a sudden it it's right here. >> mind you this was bewitching hour.
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it was 7 ooflt:30. an early autumn sun just began to take on that honey glow of a long northern evening. neighborhood kids were still straggling home from aresoccer practice. >> was it believable to you? >> well, yes and no because the way that he fell, to me, looked staged. >> get us to stop so they could rob us. >> we thought it was a setup for us. >> so you didn't know whether he was going to assault you. >> exactly. >> or whether he was running from that guy for real. >> exactly. >> then, said trevor and marissa, the masked man retreated into the alley to this garage. >> that's where he stood. he stood there on guard like he was protecting something. >> i was, like, i'm getting out of here right now. >> trevor and marissa left the man on the ground pleading for help, like some seasoned method actor, and ran are from their twilight episode. when they got home, they called the police so squad cars prowled the streets as the autumn light
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angledhor izeizen. but in that soft, after-supper quiet, nothing seemed out of place, nothing amiss. that was that until weeks later when police came back here looking for johnny altinger. they wondered, was the guy in the alley actually johnny, nat an actor? was he a real victim in one of the detectives went downtown to check on the report taken from trevor and marissa. and it didn't fit. that call was taken a week before johnny disappeared. besides, no victim ever came forward, no one claimed to have been tackattacked by a masked man. the whole thing sounded almost like, well, a scene from a movie. or just maybe a tv show about a serial killer. >> what attracted you to "dexter"?
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>> how he was able to explore that dark side, rationalize that it's okay to kill somebody. >> when "dateline" continues. to the military. and commitment is not limited to one's military oath. the same set of values that drive our nation's military are the ones we used to build usaa bank. from free checking to credit cards to loans, our commitment to the military, veterans, and their families is without equal. ♪ ♪ visit us online to learn what makes our bank so different. usaa. we know what it means to serve. ♪
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you can have one. all you have to do is get out there. of p. >> strange things come to light under the northern son, especially with the aid of a
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search warrant. as bill clark and his colleagues closed in on movie maker mark twitchell, they seized his office computer, found it in his house. and on the computer's hard drive they found this video. looked almost like a movie. a horror move you have. now, it wasn't a snuff film, it wasn't johnny ault ingorrer's murder caught on tape. it was raw footage of one of twitchell's tease films, the one he told the detective about the first time he talked to him. >> it's a suspense thriller, a short film. >> "house of cards" is what's 26 ole was calling it, a promotional film. get enough people talking about this, and he might persuade some investor to ante up the money for a feature-length film. in "house of cards," a killer poses online as a flirtatious woman to entrap his victim.
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in this scene, it's a philandering woman who tell his wife he's had heading off to the gym. >> i'm off. >> but once he arrives at the rendezvous spot, the strict is dropped with a stun baton, murdered, and then cut up into little bits. imagine a cross between "friday the 13th" and "dexter." the victim in this teaser version was played by edmonton comedian chris hayward. >> you guys have been a great audience. >> so police decided to have a little chat with mr. hayward. but when they showed up at his door, hayward, no slouch when it came to the entertainment business, thought it was a prank of some sort. >> i've worked on reality television. that was one of the first things i got into television on. they it throw you a curveball and they have writers and they -- i didn't know. i thought, somebody's making this up. this can't be true. this is not a real story. >> police also tracked down toronto actor robert barnsly who played the starring role in
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"house of cards," that of the deranged masked murderer. >> i was thinking, great, short film, i like the idea of this. it sounds interesting. you know, of course i want to try out to be the killer. i want to be the bad guy. >> mark twitchell? >> seemed like a very normal guy trying to do a afilm. >> nice guy. >> yeah, very nice. very pleasant. >> rolling? >> playing a sooerorrial killer was almost too much fun, said barnsley. >> it got kind of scary where i enjoyed it too much. >> boy, you got to be the sadist big-time?, right? >> absolutely. fun to play, i rather enjoyed it. i you thought, god, did i just think i could do this and make it believable? >> which, said barnsley was exactly what director twitchell seemed to want. >> there was a point i had to stab the dummy through the chest with a samurai sword. and he would be sitting behind the chair and he'd be leaning in and say, listen, when you're turn itting the blade, grit your
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teeth and show you're really enjoying it. >> wait a minute. was this all about enjoying some fantasy game, pretending to be evil? detective surfed around twitchell's computer accounts and discovered a facebook relationship that was all about pretending. about the time he started filming "house of cards," twitchell friended an animal trainer and aspiring filmmaker in rural ohio, a woman named renee warring. so when edan edmonton detective flew in to talk about it. she told about inclicking on an intriguing facebook class. >> there are was a picture of michael c. hall who portrays "dexter". >> did you think you were friending the actor himself? sure. >> what attracted you to "dexter"? >> what i love about the show
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and the books is how he was able to explore that dark side, rationalize that it's okay to kill somebody because this person deserved it, in a way. we flirted back and forth, and i kept asking him, who are you really? tell me who you are, because i want to see the man behind the mask. >> finally, renee's facebook friend are releaptnted. he wasn't actor michael c. hall, he admitted. his name wasmark twitchell. >> once he told me who he was, i checked him out. i did a lot of research online and found out that he was legitimate and he was up-and-coming. >> and fora 98, the would had-be filmmaker, this seemed like her big break. >> and then he expressed interest in me, in my writing style and my ideas and how we'd be able to work very well together. >> soon she was intoxicated by this online collaboration, and then wonder of wonders he
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offered her work on his next project, a feature-length version of his short film "house of cards." the film, he told her about, a sooerorrial kill canner. >> we had talked about our hypotheticals of how would you kill somebody and get away with it. >> what did he want to do? >> he told me, well, you do it like dexter because he shows you how to do it you'll the time. >> dark? oh, yes, but all in fun, of course. like twitchell's playful advice on eliminating in dexter-like fashion, one of renee's rivals in romance. >> with both her hands totally wrap wrapped in duct tape, free one arm and slit the wrist. a hunter kit comes with everything to cut a body into nice manageable pieces. >> disturbing? well, yes but remember all pretense. but then a couple of weeks later -- this is what she told the police -- something happened, strange and unsettling. >> we he would write back and forth every day.
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>> there was a weekend-long pause in their play talk about dexter, the dark side. not a single e-mail from her friend mark twitchell. then monday came and with it an apology. i've also had something else keeping me busy, he wrote. i'm really concerned about telling anyone because of theffice it to say i crossed the line on friday, and i liked it. crossed the line? what did that mean? and was it all part of an elaborate hoax? >> i thought, you know what sfwh this is a publicity stunt gone bad. >> staged fantasy or something truly terrifying? gone bad. >> staged fantasy or something truly terrifying? this is a publicity stunt gone bad. >> staged fantasy or something truly terrifying? on a beach? on a mountain? or wherever you happen to be... the first step on that road may well be... a bowl of soup. delicious campbell's soups
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it it was halloween in edmonton, canada, halloween a highlight in most any child's fantasy calendar, the night to be the terrible creature he or she could never really be. mark twitchell loved halloween, would spend weeks, months actually stitching together fantastical getup ares, outlandish costumes like the
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ones he made for his fan film secrets the rebellion, this year, 2008, just after his wife kicked him out and the cops are tailing him, he decided to be iron man. built the costume in his parents' garage. but on the very witching afternoon, mere hours from his planned grand ent to a gala halloween party, as he was walking to a local coffee house to meet with potential movie investors he was thrown to the ground by men wearing their own costumes. members of the s.w.a.t. team. he was taken into custody and charged with the murder of johnny altinger. and that, of course, made big headlines. police even held a presses conference to announce the arrest. and the reporters who had gathered were left with one juicy it tidbit -- >> we have a lot of information to indicate he definitely idolizes "dexter". >> i remember one thing we did
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in the newsroom is gone to mark twitch ole's facebook. >> a crime reporter for the edmonton journal -- >> he had a post there where it says mark twitchell has too much in common with dexter morgan. there's an idea of a man attacking totally innocent victims, strangers, it's almost myth, something built up by hollywood. didn't seem like it could be real. >> so here in edmonton, a question began to circulate -- have the cops been played by a clever promoter? >> mark twitchell is known as a prankster. a lot of people thought this was a hoax. >> you almost wonder whether or not he was doing it it as a publicity stunt. >> i thought, you know what? this is a publicity it stunt gone bad. what better way to start a movie off than to have your name on the tip of everybody's tongue. >> exactly. so maybe bill clark and the rest of the edmonton police force would wind up with red faces and
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not just from the cold. except there was one little bit of news police did not announce. when they searched twitchell's car, they found a laptop, and on the hard drive of that laptop a very smart detective found a deleted temporary file, a document about 40 pages long. could be described as a diary, maybe a far-fetched novel. or a treatment for a "dexter" episode. it was called "sk confessions," a first person account, wript interest the perspective of an aspiring serial killer. >> i remember reading this and i said, holy cow, this tells us everything. >> except the guy is ai professional storyteller who tells movies, they're not real. weren't you a little bit afraid that you might be about to be drawn into kind of a rabbit hole here? something that may be true or
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not be true, it might be a fantasy? >> oh, absolutely. we had huge discussions in the office about this. >> because "sk confessions" read more like a work of fiction, like a story that couldn't possibly be true. seemed like a hoax, right from the opening paragraph. >> this is a story of my progression into becoming a sooerorrial kill other. i don't remember the exact place and time it was that i decided to become a sooerorrial killer, but i remember the sensation that hit me when i committed to the decision. it was a rush of pure euphoria. there was something about urgently exploring my dark side that greatly appealed to me. >> the author of "sk confessions," seemed inspired boy the tv show "dexter". >> i'm a huge fan of the show time series "dexter." if you are at all familiar, you may have guessed. >> it appears this particular scene played an important role in the author's life.
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>> this one belonged to a serial killer executed last month. >> why are you showing this to me? >> because, look. it it's exactly the same as yours. >> i watched an p episode of "dexter" that a flash back showed dex it ter's dad showing a cat scan of a human brain, he showed the difference in a serial killer's brain and a normal person's brain. until i saw that i was convinced what i was was my own decision, my own path. now i truly wondered if i had little choice at all and if genetics played a bigger role than i thought. i knew i was a psychopath rather than a sociopath because i had a perfect upbringing and no history of abuse, violence or drama. >> but in "sk confessions," the violence is graphic, the description of how the killer dispatches victims with a metal pipe and a hunting knife. >> i thrust it in his gut. his reaction was pure hollywood. the lurch forward with the grunt was dead-on tv movie of the week. >> the little i noou at that
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time and the things i had found, i thought it was true. >> the cops can have hunches, think what they want. but without evidence those hunches rarely hold up in court. "sk confessions" could just as well be a make-believe story may not even be written by twitchell. it could just as easily have been downloaded from the internet. so investigators began going through it line by lun, to see if they could sort out fact from fiction. and, indeed, police found details in this tale that lined up with reality. the writer in his first-person account tells the reader how he used a game processing kit to dis34eb dismember the victim's body and police found a processing kit in twitchell's garage. the killer said he tried to burn the victim's body in an oil drum in his parents' bad yard. at twitchell's parents' house, police found the burn ridge on the back line. there was a minor detail about the killer getting a speeding
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ticket and so did twitchell, just about the time johnny altinger disappeared. >> and he joked about it in his storytelling about how this dumb cop didn't realize he had just killed a guy and he was now going out to celebrate and have are sex with his girlfriend. >> so now you could call that cop. >> that's right. >> that cop remembered it because he had a special license plate on his car that said drkjedi. it was basically word for word what the story, diary told us, exactly what the sheriff told us. >> but there was a key part of the story that couldn't be verified, a detailed passage that goes on for pages about an earlier attack. but that victim got away. that part of the story read like a direct lift from the "house of cards" script. where the man is tasered by a man wearing a hockey mask and hood. >> that's a big part to prove, was it true or not? >> surely if somebody had been attacked that way, you would have heard about it. >> we would expect someone to
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come forward, but we got nothing. no call, nothing to match the similarity. >> so this seemed to be one p part of the story that just didn't happen. >> didn't p make sense. >> so police losted a hail mary pass. they went public and release a photo of a hockey mask. >> that will tweak somebody's memory about, yeah, that was me. hopefully they'll come forward. >> it was a long shot, really. maybe that person didn't even exist. but they put it out there and waited. but not for long, because that very evening a lonely casino security officer named geo tetro was teetering around his computer and saw the police appeal and felt the blood drain from his face. that person was him. >> i'm, like, oh, my god, it's the same hockey mask as i saw. that guy was wearing it. >> the hockey mask. >> the hockey mask.
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so i tartstarted reading the story i'm like, oh, my god, someone got killed. >> now that evening, came crashing back. it was he who so frightened that couple out for a stroll, trevor and marissa. jeo picked up the phone and before long found himself in a room with detective bill clark. >> and in my career it was probably the most spellbinding interview i've ever had with a witness. >> and now you're about to hear that story firsthand. this this horror story really happened. >> it was like life flashed before my eyes. oh, my god, my family is never g ingo goeeg inagto se mai e [ male announcer ] what part of the chicken is "nugget?" we're kfc. our cooks don't make ngets. they make popcorn chicken. real, 100% off-the-bone premium breast meat. so how does it compare to pressed, formed nuggets? it doesn't.
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geoteto joined the horror movie plot in edmonton, canadation he was a man with a broken heart, lonely in a new
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city without the wife who had left him for another life. so when he came across that truly lovely, intelligent woman on an online dating site and she seemed to like him, well, who could resist? >> she looked beautiful in her profile. >> shena was her name. >> she said, how about dinner and a movie? and she started making these kind of excuses that i couldn't pick her pup at her front door. >> so tetro's date asked him to park in a an alley, come through a detached garage. >> she would leave the garage door open for me. i'd go through the garage to the other side, get into the yard and go knock on the back door to pick her up. the door is high enough that i didn't have to crawler under it. i just had to squat under it. >> so, now hopeful, unsuspecting, geo walked through the garage toward this door that leads to the back patio. >> and i touched the knob to
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open the door, and all of a sudden somebody attacked me from behind. i turned back to look, to see what's going on, and that's when all of a sudden i yousee this man wearing this black and gold hock it di mask. i you mean, this guy was much p bigger than me, prodding me with this stun gun. >> at first, in his shock, geo couldn't tell what it it was, this stinging at the back of his neck. but listen to from "sk confessions". >> pressing the baton across the back of his neck, pulled the trigger. it shocked and jumped but did little are more than merely alert the bastard to what was going on. >> so i tried to make a run for it. that's when he actually point pulled out a gun. >> i you pointed it straight at him and all of a sudden he took me seriously, his eyes wide. >> then he yells, get down on the ground, put your face down, close your eyes and put your hands in the back. i don't know where he had it,
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but he took out duct tape and he ripped off piece. that's when he covered my eyes with it. >> and just about then geo tetro decided he come to the moment of his own death. >> i actually started tearing up, and it was like life flashed before my eyes and it was quite emotional. i'm like, oh, my god, my family is never going to see me again. i never told anyone where i was going that day. all of a sudden i you hear his belt jiggling. >> what geo actually heard was the sound of handcuffs as they neared his wrists. >> instead, he thought the attacker was undoing his belt. >> i immediately thought, he's going to rape me. so i'm, like, you know what? i better fight for pmy life. i said, i'd rather die my way than his way. i knew he's going to pull the gun out again. >> yeah. >> and, you know what? if it kills me, it kills me.
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so i get up, and i rip off the duct tape and i yell at him, i said, i can't do this. i'm not going down like this. he started yelling at me, get back down on the ground, back down on the ground! i just darted for the gun, grab ared the edd edd the end of it and pushed it away you from my body. >> he got back to his feet having removed the duct tape. whi pointed the gun at him again, he grabbed it. >> it was the best feeling i ever felt in my life because i felt plastic when i grabbed it. >> just immediately. >> immediately. it it was plastic. >> so you suddenly realized -- >> it was a fake gun. >> i think i might have seen a glean in that indicated he felt the gun's construction and realized it it was not real. i you grabbed him by the arms and we're kind of struggling all over the garage. >> according to "sk confessions geo by fighting back had taken the story way off script. >> overestimating the stun baton is a mistake i would not repeat. i should have just pounded him
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in the back of the head while he was down until he lay unconscious on the floor. >> i you tried to kick him, but as i did that he saw he going to do that so he actually went and swiped my leg and i almost fell down. and i almost lost my shoe. and i'm thinking, wow, i can't get down -- if i get down on the ground, i'm -- >> you're cooked. >> yeah, exactly. >> his adeny listen had been pumping so ferociously, he was unaware how the shocks of the stun baton had zapped his strength. >> my muscles just couldn't move. i was just so weak. so he goes forward and tries to head-butt me. >> i delivered a head butt to his face and he broke free again. >> that's when he says, because you didn't cooperate, this is the way it has to be. then he starts punching me in the head. >> tetro stumbled backward with every blow, closer and closer to the open garage door.
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>> i'm letting him punch me. punches me again, and he grabs my jacket so i then slipped out of my jacket, rolling underneath the garage door and finally made it out of that garage. so i start to try to run, and all of a sudden it was like my legs were paralyzed and i just couldn't move. and i just fell right on my face. >> it's like in the nights mare where you can't get away from the monster. >> yeah. i you just start crawling away on this unpaved driveway. sure enough he comes back infer underneath the garage after me and grabs my legs and starts dragging me back. >> oh, my god. >> i'm thinking, oh, my god, i don't know how i'm going sto inging to get away again. oh, my god, i have nothing left are. there's nothing else i can do. >> i grabbed him by the leg as if to drag him back into the garage caveman style. but my energy was depleting and the human survival instinct is one of the most powerful forces on earth.
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>> and so he drags me back and throws me back into the garage under nooejneath the door. i'm thinking, he doesn't have a o ldhon me anymore.ld this is my cha e. i can maybe get away again. then i rolled back underneath the garage door. i got back up and in my head i'm like, there's no way i'm not running this time. >> legs, carry me. >> yep. >> terrified, exhausted, geo tetro ran 30 or 40 feet to this pedestrian path when he collapsed in front of trevor and marissa. >> i look up and all of a sudden i see a couple walking their dog. and i couldn't really talk. all i could say is, there's a man after me. he's trying to mug me. please help me. they looked stunned. they didn't know what was going on. and to me it felt like it was taking the masked man forever to come after me. but sure enough he came running after me. he comes toward me, i'm standing
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close to the couple, i say, hey, that's the man. >> then as i looked up, the attacker almost actually ran into me. >> a couple on an evening stroll saw me coming after him. sporing a deer in the head like look that can only be describe as a total lack of comprehension. >> once he saw the couple there, he said, come on frank. >> the guy in the mask was pretending they were friends. >> then he pretend it's like he's going to lift the mask off like we're playing but he doesn't. then he turns around and he starts walking back to the garage. >> i stared back at them through my mask for half a moment and then headed back for the cover of my lair. >> it was only once he had arrived safe at home that geo tried to put it all together. but how? what in the world just happened? who was that man behind the mask? and why had he been attacked? >> i decided, you know what? i need to go back onto that online dating web sitement.
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i want to get as much information as i can so i can give this to police. >> sure. >> so i go back on and all of a sudden everything was gone. her profile was gone. all of the sent and received messages that i got from that person were all gone. >> what is it like to be sitting alone in your apartment in front of your computer with that realization in your head? >> it felt almost ashamed. it was like i can't believe i got duped by this woman. i was like, i just want to put this behind me. i don't want to think about it and want to move on. >> and did not call the police. >> no. no, i didn't. >> maybe it was the fear in his eye that's told me deep down he wouldn't report the incident. >> i was seeing him there with the gun. >> but now, a month after his journey into the twilight zone, geo tetro was giving bill clark a video blow by blow account of the assault. >> there's no doubt in my mind he's being so truthful.
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>> and the cops had real evidence that "sk confessions" was all true. except it was not quite complete. it was a story without an end. >> the part we never had, we never had johnny. >> that is johnny altinger, the victim who it seemed did not escape from the suburban garage. still no sign of him. unless -- just about then, detectives uncovered something, an updated version of "sk confessions." there are was one more chapter, in which a killer leaves a clue impossible to resist. coming up -- cops take mark twitch with elle on an incredible journey to the place where something evil may have happened. >> here we are back at the killing garage. look familiar, mark?
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mark twitchell, the would-be movie director in edmonton, canada, loved the tv show "dexter," so taken with the whole idea of it that he posted this online ad, an attempt to sell the script for his "house of cards" short film, as if it were an original "dexter" episode. in fact, the story on twitchell's computer, the one called "sk confessions" is a lot like the tv show episode. now in twitchell's rent areed garage, police found what looked
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for all the world like a kill room. there was plastic sheeting in here, an autopsy table, all matching the careful descriptions in "sk confessions." what the killer couldn't learn from dexter, though, was how to dispose of the body. dexter lives in miami, dumps his victims in the atlantic. but edmonton out here in if the middle of farmland and oil fields is many hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean and that fact seems to have stymied the "sk killer" who aapparently had no idea how to get rid of his victims' remains. perhaps it never occurred to him to put the body in the trunk of a car and drive it out past the city limits and bury it behind some old abandoned barn. so, according to "sk confessions" he tried burning them. but that didn't work. so he thought about throwing them in the sa xach wan river that runs through town but was
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afraid someone would see them. so he finally decides to toss them down one of edmonton's storm drains. >> the diary talked about dump pg the body in a sewer. then it ended. >> by this time, clark certainly believed the diary was drew,true, all of it. but without a body in a case as bizarre as it one, how could a jury be sure important parts of this "sk confessions" weren't just some fantasy from the dark side? so clark confronted twitchell with the evidence against him, hoping he would confess. >> then i make an interesting comment, this reminds me of "dexter," too. kill room, clean sweep. you were referring to your garage as the kill room. your garage was the kill room. the table is the kill table. it's undellably where you carved him up. i'll show you later. but the blood seeps underneath. it all does dna matching. it all goes -- you know when i
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say that show "dexter" -- you've seen that show "dexter." it's all modeled after "dexter." you know that, mark. eerily, you kind of look like the guy. i look at that picture, i saw that one on your web site, and you guys kind of even look the same. the big thing there, though, is he kills people who needs killing. he kills these guys who get off in court, the guys who get off on technicality. he kills people that need killing. the difference here is, you killed a guy who really was no harm to society at all. >> but from aretwitchell, no response at all. the next day clark and another detective took twitchell out of jail and drove him around edmonton, hoping he would give up some information. what was his demeanor like? >> defiant. >> we took him for a you drive and said, you're going to show us where the body is, where johnny is. drove right here, parked if front of his parents' house. >> and after that, mark twitchell was taken to the place where for a brief moment was the center of his life.
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>> so here we are back at the killing garage, the "dexter" garage. look familiar, mark? are we parked right on top of the sewer where are you dumped the body? jog your memory as to which sewer you put this itguy down. >> clark even took twitchell to the back of the garage, the suspected crime scene, hoping it would trig arer erger some level of remorse. >> bring back any memories? want to tell us where the body is now? get this over with? get you back to the station? okay. let's go another way. >> back in the car, another detective heard off camera starts working on twitchell. >> you whack your victim over the head, beat the [ bleep ] out of them, chop them up, carve them p up.
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this pales in comparison, but you can't take it. >> but twitchell said nothing. at least not in person. he had certainly said plenty in "sk confessions," if, in fact, he was the author. but the document was incomplete, ending in a jumble of unrecoverable computer code. >> we're going to the computer guys, come on, you've got to pull up more. we're right where he dump ped the body and we don't know the location. >> so a detective did a slow methods cal search on the desktop computer found in twitchell's home. and it paid off. on that computer, once deleted but now found, was yet another version of "sk confessions," with a few additional tantalizing paragraphs, describe describing the location of the victim's remains. >> he talks about a specific sewer. he talks about how it's off an alley, in a grassy area, in an older neighborhood. he talks about telephone phones
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in this alley. and only certain neighborhoods up here have telephone poles, the older ones. >> that's about the time detective bill clark became a man obsessed. >> i you mean, we were pulling manhole covers off. i'd be out with the flashlight looking down. no, can't see anything. if it was really dicey, we'd call the city you crews in. >> nothing. enough to make a person doubt his own sanity. until police received a map that broke the case wide open. where did you find the body? >> right down there. >> who gave them that map?
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bill clark was one deeply frustrated detective. for months he had been a man obsessed, peering into the sewers of edmonton in a vain search for the missing johnny ault altinger. then, after a year and a half, a call from the city jail. an inmate wanted to talk to detectives. his name? mark twitchell. and without any explanation, he handzed over a printout of this google map. at the bottom of the page there was a handwritten note, location of john altinger's remains. >> and if you can believe it, it was one block south of his parents' house in that alley.
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>> and this is the alley behind the twitchell home. it it matched perfectly with the description from "sk confessions" and in fact this area had been searched by police a year and a half earlier. >> they actually pulled all these sewers -- >> all the covers. >> pulled them off, had cruise go down, search each one. they found nothing. they did this whole block, in this area here, and sent cameras down the lines where they actually go down the lines and snake them down and having a look they found nothing. >> but where did they stop in. >> they stopped about where you and i are stading on 130th avenue. >> so a year and a half later, where did you fine the body? >> right down there, five telephone poles down on the left-hand side of this alley a half block from where we stopped the search. >> and this was johnny altinger's tomb. >> you could see it. little piece of the torso and a piece of the pelvis.
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>> probably thought it would all get washed away. >> i think he thought it would deteriorate to the point where it would be unidentifiable or no one would ever look, right? >> nobody would look because they wouldn't find the "sk confessions". >> that's right. no one would ever look. >> but why, just weeks before his murder trial was set to begin, did mark twitchell give up johnny altinger's body? must have been a reason. because of all the publicity the case generated, the judge slapped a gag order on the press, the police, everybody. which is why on the first te'i of the trial the disclosure that altinger's body had been uncovered -- >> caught everyone by surprise. >> former reporter steve is writing a book about the twitchell case, "the devil's cinema". >> it doesn't get more explosive than that. it was all new information no one had heard before. >> the trial only got more bizarre as the prosecution then unveiled for the first time "sk confessions."
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sitting in that courtroom, said the reporter, became a journey deep into the wildernesses of a mind of darkness. >> horrid, horrid details were written down. i mean, no detail was not told within this document. it's written like -- it sounds just like it's fiction, like a script. but when you take a step backtion you realize this is a real person he's talking about. this is a real man who's been murdered. >> but was johnny altinger murdered? well, twitchell certainly admitted he dumped johnny's remains down this storm drain. he never said he murdered him. never even admitted he was the author of "sk confessions." so detectives knew they would need more than this document to get a conviction. so they had quietly built a case on csi basics. take twitchell's garage, for instance. this is what it looked like during the normal light of day. this is a photo taken from the same angle minutes later after the floor was sprayed with
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luminol, the chemical that makes blood glow. >> huge spots in the garage which would indicate a large pooling of blood. they found a piece of a human tooth in the garage. we found blood spatter all along the walls, the garage doors, hundreds of spots of splatter where an obvious beating had taken place. >> also in the garage? csi investigators found this big game processing kit. >> kit hunters would take out in the bush to cut p up a moose or whatever they've killed to bring them out. this is what he used, and every single tool in that kit had our victim's dna on it. >> and in twitchell's car, police found other hard evidence. >> we find a knife in there, a knife with blood on it. >> visible blood? >> visible blood on that knife. and that blood matches up to johnny altinger. >> in the car. he just left it in the car. >> in the car. and the car turns out to be an absolute gold mine. it absolutely blows this case
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wide open. there are yellow sticky notes that are right on the console, one of them has a map drawn from the garage to johnny altinger's apartment. he kept everything. this guy was meticulous. he kept receipts, wrote everything down. >> after the presentation of the hard evidence, twitchell's frefrnds and co-workers were called to testify. one of the first was the actor who played the victim in "haas house of cards," chris hayward. on his way to court that morning, he worried, what would happen if twitchell was acquitted? >> if he gets out, he'll -- i don't know. i feel like he'll probably kill me. >> chris wasn't alone in his worry. renee warring was unsettled, too, the day she testified. but for another reason altogether. >> i didn't want to feel judged. >> judged because? >> i have dark thoughts and i shared them with a serial killer. >> johnny altar's friend debra tight rope testified.
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>> he seemed like a normal person, average person off the street, and i -- that's what disturb itted me. >> twitchell remained stone-faced, even when his own wife took the stand. >> she's crying through all of this. mark twitchell's reaction was nearly blank. >> but when this video was shown in court, during bill clark's testimony, twitchell came unraveled. >> he starts to cry, and the tears are just streaming down his face. he's getting a hysterical. his chest is heaving. >> the judge actually recognized it, he took a break. he couldn't get out of the room fast enough. >> when he comes back after the break, mark twitch it elleell is no betterment he's still very upset. he's crying. he turns around and actually faces detective clark, and he starts talking to him and said, i'm sorry for lying to you. this is extraordinary. you would never have an accused turn around and start talking to one of the primary investigators in the middle of their own murder trial.
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>> but this was far from the strangest moment of the trial. that came in the case for the defense when the attorney called but one witness -- mark twitchell. >> the room was packed. there wasn't a single seat. i think everyone was on the edge of their seat wondering, what is this guy going to say? >> now twitchell finally had an audience to hear his story, one he had been waiting 2 1/2 years to tell. and what a story it was. >> he said that you could blendz fiction and reality so closely together that everyone would be fooled. >> telling fact from fiction would now be a jury's job. coming up next friday on "dateline," ransom. a beautiful young wife and mother kidnapped. >> as a mother it's your woofrt nightmare. >> the victim's had husband was terrified. the kidnappers demanded thousands in cash. >> there's someone with a gun pointed at her head?
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>> then the victim herself called. a ransom drop went wrong, aed up the money. desperate hours passed. what would happen now? >> this case was not going to turn out like a lot of people l
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in mark twitchell's trial, the defense had but one witness with, twitchell himself. and right from the start he commit
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admitted killing johnny altinger altinger. and then he told the jury a story. >> he said that what he had done is he cooked up this idea that you could blend fiction and reality so closely together that the people -- everyone would be fooled into think you that what's fiction is actually reality. >> "house of cards" and "sk confessions," said twitchell, were to be the building blocks to a cutting edge entertainment concept consisting of both book and film. but there was more, more twisted reality. to generate publicity, twitchell said he first needed to create an online urban legend. by doing a series of harmless staged attacks identical to those depicted in his movie and novel. >> so that when his movie comes out and when the novel comes out, people would go google this and they would find out there's this whole urban legend about maybe the movie is real. maybe this fiction is actually reality.
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>> and he called it "multiit angle sigh koespsychosis layering entertainment" m.a.p.l.e. for sure. there's like a beach and a tree but when you pull back it's just a picture of the beach. >> so the ait tack on geo tetro was just a stunt. he allowed his prey to escape. and johnny altinger, that assault was fake, too, just like the first one. but johnny just didn't get the joke, and, furious that it there was no woman to greet him, attacked twitchell with a pipe. >> and he's got this little knife on his belt and he he tellehe tells the jury in his testimony that he puts his hand on the handle of the knife and just as johnny is about to come at him, he's lifting the pipe over his head and mark twitchell sticks both of his hands out in front of him and the next thing owe sees is the knife is in johnny's stomach and the blood is on his hands and he collapses and dies on the floor in front of him.
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>> the only inak ascy in sk confessions is that the initial attacker was johnny ault ingorrer. then he, mark twitchell, panicked and disposed of the body in the sewer. so now police had their answer as to why twitchell gave up the body. it was the prologue of his elaborate tale. >> his defense is a brilliant idea on the surface. i mean, he actually found a way to describe an entire police investigation that incriminated him to get him off scot-free. >> down in ohio, renee waring was following all of this online. >> i watched the live blog that they had, and i was screaming my head off at home, you liar! >> were you afraid the jury would believe him? >> oh, yeah. >> you're looking for that one person you can convince on a panel of 12 people to just have that doubt, and, you know, take that doubt back to the deliberation room.
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>> geo tetro was in court the day the case against twitchell was completed. >> i got to sit in the second row, and altinger's mom was in the first row. >> right. >> she looked back and saw me. i didn't know how she'd feel. >> why did that guy live and my son die? >> yeah, exactly. she just turned around, she looked at me, she smiled, she grabbed my hand and she said, i'm so happy that you're still with us. and that meant so much to me. >> what was that like? >> i you didn't know what she would feel towards me so when she did that, it was wonderful. it was almost like another closing moment for me. >> but not for others in the courtroom. and apparently not for the jury as deliberations dragged on. >> the time rolled on. some people were thinking, maybe there's a hotelout, maybe there's somebody who actually does believe mark twitchell.
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>> after all, mark twitchell was a masterful liar, maybe this ultimate fantasy of his would beguile the jury. and then that final audience trooped back into the courtroom and gave him his last review. they found him guilty of the premeditated first-degree murder of johnny altinger. >> i've never been involved in an investigation like this in my whole career. as homicide detectives, you theorize about how someone has died. and there's no doubt we don't always get it right. we have a good idea but we're never right. here we knew exactly what happened to john. >> because he told you. >> he told us. ultimately, johnny led us to it and mark twitchell closed it on himself by writing all about it. no doubt in my mind he would have kept on killing. we caught a serial killer on his first kill. >> but why? why did mark twitchell murder johnny altinger?
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was it a thrill killing? or something even darker? >> i think that ultimately he wanted to experience the feeling of killing and dismembering a body, and i think ultimately down the road he was going to try to produce a film about it and he would be a producer who would tell his casting crew and actors how to do it and only to himself he would know he's actually lived it. i think that's what he wanted to do. >> and far away in ohio, renee waring, twitchell's old facebook friend, arrived ted same disturbing theory. >> i think he did it for artistic reasons. >> artistic reasons. >> sure. i think he wanted to see how someone died so maybe he could make a better story, film it better, write about it better. >> in fact, mark twitchell himself offered an answer to all those people who wondered why.
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he was different, he wloetwrote in his "sk confessions." he simply could not feel for anyone. and so intentionally or not he offered a dismalreason for murdering a perfect strange arer. it was a single line at the end of that horror movie of his "house of cards." when the killer tells his wife -- >> the best way to succeed is to write what you know. >> that is all for this edition of "dateline" friday. we'll be back again next friday at 9:00/8:00 central. i'm hoda kotb. for all of us here at nbc news, good night.


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